By Silke Hynes
The EISA Carnival season came to a close this weekend with the Middlebury College Carnival in Ripton, Vt. Despite heavy rain late in the week, the Rikert Nordic Center managed to pull together a full 5-kilometer loop. Races were delayed from Friday to Saturday to give organizers time to repair rain damage to the race loop. A perennial challenge, the course winds its way up and down, containing two A-level climbs and challenging technical downhills. Conditions for the weekend created additional difficulty. As temperatures dropped, standing water froze creating a course dotted with ice patches. Despite the best efforts of organizers, some parts of the course remained icy.
Saturday dawned clear and cold leading to hard, fast tracks for the first day of racing. The men’s 10 k skate was underway first, and the day belonged to the men of the University of Vermont (UVM). Jørgen Grav led a three-man sweep for the Catamounts. He was followed by teammate Jack Hegman less than 5 seconds back, while Cole Morgan completed the UVM sweep. They were followed by a Dartmouth charge with Fabian Stocek and Callan Deline taking fourth and fifth, respectively.
In the women’s 5 k skate, Annie Pokorny of Middlebury was the only one who could stop UVM from repeating the sweep on the women’s side. She took first, ahead of skate leader Alayna Sonnesyn of UVM, who took second. Sonnesyn was the first of a four-woman sweep for UVM, leading teammates Iris Pessey, Mary-Kate Cirelli and Stephanie Kirk on their way to third, fourth, and fifth respectively.
Sunday started out considerably warmer than the day before, with temperatures rising over freezing heading into the men’s 20 k classic mass start. The days races were held on a slightly modified course, with racers cutting off an A-climb on their first lap, presumably to avoid sending tightly packed skiers down the technical, icy descent that followed.
Once again the men were off first, with a lead pack setting a fast early pace. Midway through Eli Hoenig of Williams took control, leading for the latter half of the race before being outpaced to the line by Hegman. Hoenig took second, just 0.3 of a second back of Hegman’s winning time. Grav cruised into third, followed by Stocek in fourth. Morgan rounded out the top five for the Catamounts.
In the women’s 15 k classic mass start there was no stopping the UVM women. Pessey charged to her third podium of the season, narrowly out pacing teammate Cirelli, who finished second. They were followed by teammates Sonnesyn and Kirk in third and fourth to complete a four-woman sweep. Corey Stock of Dartmouth was the lone non-UVM skier to sneak into the top five, with her fifth-place finish.
After strong performances across the board, it was no surprise that the big winners of the weekend were the University of Vermont Catamounts. They took home both the Middlebury carnival win, as well as both men’s and women’s conference titles with a combined score of 989 points. Dartmouth College finished second with 826 points, followed by the University of New Hampshire in third with 749 points.
With the EISA Nordic season complete it was time to hand out the final individual accolades as well. Hegman took home both the men’s overall classic and overall skate leader bibs, while teammate Sonnesyn took home the women’s overall skate leader bib. Kelsey Phinney of Middlebury took home the women’s overall classic leader bib despite not racing the past two carnival weekends. Female Rookie of the Year went to Pessey, while Male Rookie of the Year went to Deline.
While EISA racing action is finished for the season, the top Eastern collegiate skiers will head west to Steamboat Springs, Colo., for the NCAA Championships March 9-12.